This study explored how the Democratic Party is trying to win back the support of the white working-class. Prior research on the white working-class indicated that politicians have utilized unique appeals to engage this part of the electorate including populist rhetoric, symbolic group appeals, a focus on the economy, and more. This study analyzed campaign tv commercials from two 2022 Democratic Senatorial candidates, Tim Ryan (OH) and John Fetterman (PA). Through a content analysis of five campaign videos per candidate, this study coded for both words and visuals for topics regarding: the economy, dog whistle politics, populist rhetoric, elitism, symbolic group appeals, and policy-oriented appeals. The results indicated that Tim Ryan and John Fetterman mentioned the issue of the economy more than the issue of dog whistle politics and both candidates positioned their opponents as a member of “the elite.” The candidates featured elements of populism throughout their campaign commercials, but Ryan only used populist words while Fetterman utilized both populist words and visuals. Finally, symbolic group appeals appeared in both candidates’ commercials as well as a few policy-oriented buzzwords, but Ryan mainly featured symbolic group appeal visuals while Fetterman used both words and visuals regarding symbolic group appeals.


Bostdorff, Denise

Second Advisor

Wrobel, Meg


Communication Studies; Political Science


Arts and Humanities


Democratic Party, Campaign ads, White working-class, Content analysis, Hand-coded, Tim Ryan, John Fetterman

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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